Iraq not immune from Arab anger - clerics

2011-02-04 19:03
Karbala - Iraq is not immune to protests elsewhere in the Arab world because it is a democracy, and its leaders must work to fight corruption and promote social justice, clerics said in Friday sermons.

Their warnings came as protests in Egypt against President Hosni Mubarak reached an 11th day, while smaller protests have been held in Yemen and Jordan, after an uprising in Tunisia ousted that country's long-time leader.

"All governments, even democracies, must study the main reasons that have led to this public anger against their regimes, which started in Tunisia," said Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai during Friday prayers in the shrine city of Karbala.

"A lot has changed in Iraq... but there is no social justice," said Karbalai, the representative in Karbala for Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

"The political blocs in Iraq must give priority to public issues over private interests."

'It will not end'

He added: "There are many outstanding issues - we are not sure that what happened in Arab countries will not happen in Iraq, even though it is a democracy."

Sheikh Mohammed al-Juburi, imam of the Abu Bakr al-Saddiq mosque in the ethnically-mixed northern city of Kirkuk, echoed Karbalai's views, warning: "It started in North Africa and it will not end."

"Iraq's politicians must take care to serve their people and to not give opportunities to the corrupt and those who further foreign agendas," he said, adding: "We may see a spark in Iraq just like the spark sweeping Arab countries."

The imam at the main mosque in Kufa, twin city to the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, condemned police reaction to a demonstration in southern Iraq on Wednesday, when they opened fire to disperse protesters, leaving four wounded.

"The demonstrators did not ask to change the government like what is happening in Egypt or Tunisia, they only asked for improving basic services," Dhia al-Shawki said.

"Are those illegal demands? Do they not know that the time of fear is over?" he said, an apparent reference to the fall of Saddam Hussein as a result of the US-led invasion.
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